Now and Then

She managed on her own pretty well.
It is only since her eyesight failed
That she has started to have a few Falls.
Balance is a combination of three characteristics: Soles of the Feet, Eyesight, and Ears.
As we age, at least one of these things will tend to go.

“C’mon! You can do it!” the Young Woman says encouragingly to her baby boy, standing, but not yet finding his balance to walk the two steps toward her, as she sits on the floor of their Bronx Living Room, with her arms outstretched toward him.
“Cuhh’mon,” nodding and smiling brightly, talking in a now higher-pitched enthusiasm.
His feet find their balance, and he steps forward;
Her arms are there to catch the little boy in a hug as he finally falls back down to a more comfortable and familiar crawl.
“Yaaay!” she applauds him and cheers him on.
“Very Good! You took your first steps! That’s Very Good!”

One’s chance of Falling increases significantly each decade after age 65.
Once one has had a Fall, the chance of it happening again is way higher than it was before it happened — that is because the Fall usually indicates that one of the three aspects of balance is beginning to falter.
So the Doctors will test your feet, clean out your ears, and send you for an eye test.

The Retina Specialist was kind, and empathetic.
“You know,” he said, as he put his hand to his brow in consternation,
“There’s nothing we can do. We have no treatment for macular degeneration.”
He looked over at Mama.
Then he looked back at me and commented, “She’s So Sweet!”
“Yes,” I agree. “She is.”

She was in hospital.
He had come down with the mumps, and his Dad thought it best not to worry her.
So the Boy got on the phone with her every evening, making up stories about what happened in the playground at recess and pretending it had been an average day at school, so that she wouldn’t know he was ill, and wouldn’t worry.
When she was home from the hospital, they all had a good laugh about it.
“What a brave boy!” she said to him.

There are injections they can give when there is hemorrhaging going on around the retina.
They stick a needle directly into your eyeball.
Mama went through this three or four times.
It was painful for her.
It didn’t help.
But they did what they could.
“What a brave girl!” he said to her.

The other evening he helped her to write a Birthday Card to her Grandson.
He made out the check for her, and told her to sign it.
“I can’t see,” she whispered. And then, in a rare instance of breaking down in front of him, she put her hands to her eyes and cried.
She did not want him to see this.
She does not like for him to worry.

You can sign your name here,
His large adult hand guiding her small frail hand to the check.
“But I can’t see!” she repeated.
“You don’t need to see to write your name,” he reassured her gently, placing the pen point to the signature line.
“Just write. The muscle memory is in your hand. You can remember what it feels like to write your signature. Just let your hand sign it for you. You’ll remember.”

“Like This,” she would say, taking his tiny hand in her small adult hand, she would guide him to cursive.
“You’re learning!” she encouraged him.
He typically brought home a Report Card that had an A in every subject except Penmanship and Conduct.
While Father would react to these C’s bringing down his Average, she would take the boy aside and whisper, “The two subjects Mommy doesn’t care about are Penmanship and Conduct,
As long as you keep getting A’s in everything else!”
“You don’t need to write neatly,” she would tell him.
And as for Conduct, perhaps she knew that nothing she could say would improve the situation.

with her second Great GrandChild

She struggled. The writing was very shaky. But she signed it.
Now, the Card.
Write, “Love, Grandma,” he instructs her.
With no struggle, she writes smoothly and fluidly.
This she knows how to do.
And no one could stop her.
It wasn’t wobbly — it looked remarkably like when she began writing it, with such pride, thirty-some-odd years ago.
He encourages her. Her crying subsides.
She has said three or four times in the ten or fifteen minutes it takes to do this,
“I don’t know what I would do without you!”
“You can never know how much I appreciate you!”

She says all of the things he felt but was unable to articulate as a child.
All of the things that any child feels and no child knows how to put into words.
That is part of being a child.
A Parent finds satisfaction in how their Children Grow.
The wisdom to speak from Gratitude — that is a part of Growing Older.
In Life’s Sunset, there are Words,
and ideally Peace.

Eggplant Parmesan is a complicated process

He stays later.
He makes his Elderly Mom Eggplant Parmesan.
He’s tired.
He’s Working.
He has other things to be doing, and dreams that are being put on hold.
It is so time-consuming.
But it brings him So Much Joy to see her Happy.
She is his Mother.
This is the natural priority behind which all other things line up.

But Oh So Delicious!

She gets up early in the Morning.
She makes the Boy EggPlant Parmesan.
Getting four kids ready for school, she didn’t have an excess of time to make such elaborate lunches every morning, but she always did it.
She had other things to be doing, and dreams that were being put on hold.
It is so time-consuming.
But it brings her So Much Joy to see him Happy.
She was his Mother.
This is the natural priority behind which all other things line up.

What a Mother teaches a Child by Example
May reveal itself some day, in ways you may not anticipate.

“How did she get here?” she wonders.
Taking Care of the Kids!
It seemed like only a moment ago, she was going out and having Fun!
How she Loved to Dance!
The Rainbow Room — SINATRA, DINO and all the Old Crooners.
How he Loved to Dance!
The Ice Palace — THE VILLAGE PEOPLE, DONNA SUMMER, and all the Disco Headliners.
That all seemed a LifeTime Away Now, So Far in the Past!
Now, a CareTaker and in the Second Half of Life…

But she Loved what she’d found.
Being a Mother.
Life was Like that — ever revealing Newfound Treasures of Being.
She takes the Boy’s hand.
She can feel him Letting Go.
She doesn’t want him to Go,
But they both know it’s necessary.
Time to Grow Up,
Become a Good Man,
Remember everything she taught him.
She is Proud of him.
Still, she holds his hand a little too tightly
Wishing he would remain her Boy Forever.

He takes his Mother’s Hand.
He can feel her Letting go.
He doesn’t want her to Let Go.
But they both know it’s necessary.
He wants her to be Comfortable,
Be a Good Patient.
He remembers everything she taught him.
Still, soon, she may not remember who he is.
He is Proud of her, handling this with such Grace and Strength.
He holds her hand a little too tightly
Wishing she would remain here Forever.

She Loves being a Mom.
He Loves having a Mom. Most of his friends’ Moms are gone.
It is what she’s always wanted.
It’s just that she has no time to herself and no days off.
Imagine if all your free days are spent being there for someone else.
That is what being a Mom to a young child is.
That is what having an Elderly Mom is.
That is what Love is.
Finding the JOY.
Grateful for who you are and all that you have!
Showing up for your Life and doing what you do and this is your Life and it is to be Treasured!
All is right in her world.
All is right in his world.

He wants his Mommy!
He takes her hand.
He wishes she would never let his hand go.
She can save him from anything — the Monsters under the Bed and the occasional Nightmares.
He is scared to go to sleep alone, as most little boys are, for the irrational fear that he might die during the night and she would not be there to hold his hand.
She will always be there for him!
And this Gives him Peace,
Even though there are things a Mother knows.
She wants her Son!
She takes his hand.
She wishes he would never let her hand go.
She is scared to go to sleep alone as most elderly people are, for the understandable fear that she might die during the night and he would not be there to hold her hand.
She knows he cannot save her from this.
He believes with all his heart that he will always be there for her!
And this Gives him Peace,
Even though there are things a Mother knows…

# # #

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  1. My tears started with the first sentences and blurred the screen through the rest. This is beyond beautiful, Arnold. It is painfully, gloriously, heartbreakingly, life-affirmingly real. Thank you.

    • Thank You, Dear CATHRYN! We are all so Blessed in these Lives we Live! It’s All Gift! Thank You for Living your Gift with Such Grace toward All! XXOO

  2. What a truly special and heartfelt perspective of the bond between mother and child. Your Mom is one of the most gracious and loving women I know. Sending lots of love to her on Mothers Day 💜

  3. Arnold, you always write so beautifully about the mysteries and gifts of our lives. I often pull the box of tissues near me before I start reading your posts, You speak the Truth and it always touches my heart so deeply! I have shared this post on FB because it needs a wider audience — so many are struggling with caring for aging parents and your post helps us to remember to do it with love and deep gratitude for all that’s been given to us. Thank you!!!

    • Thank You, Dear DEBORAH! I so appreciate your kind words! And this is such a Marvelous Journey with our Aging Parents, isn’t it? What a Gift! XXII


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